I watched the paramedic scan the room. He knew the poor gent had died many hours before, so instead of saving a life. Now he had to step into his other role of breaking bad news. But before he could do that, he needed to ask this poor gent, who are you?
Days earlier, I’d visited this house to replace lost car keys. The gent was very old and looked poorly, but he was up and about with the aid of a stick and opened the door to me. His breathing was heavy, but when I asked if he was ok, he told me ’it’s just me chest laddie, been like it years’.
Who are you?
There’d been a problem ordering the key. The car dealers needed ID before I could order the key for him and explained the dealer needed proof of ‘Who are you and is it your car’.
‘No problem’, as he struggled to stand and sort through his mountain of documents.
Eventually I left him, photos taken, and I assured him I’d be back the next day with a key. ‘No problem laddie, I’m not going anywhere’.
Thursday came and there was a problem getting the key. One of the documents I’d photographed was too old, so I dropped back in and knocked the door, but this time there was no reply. It was midmorning, maybe he was having a lie-in. Looking through the window, he gestured to me from the sofa, come on in. He was on the sofa, his breathing heavier.
‘I’m back but no key yet, I need a newer document, sorry.’
‘No problem laddie just find it yourself, in the kitchen dresser. ‘
I knew where they were from the previous day. Searching years of bills and bank statements, I finally found something relevant.
‘I’ll be back tomorrow with your keys. Are you sure you’re ok? ‘
The television was loud, the fire was on full and although the winter day was chilly, the living room was an oven.
‘I’m ok laddie, do you need money, there’s some in the dresser. ‘
There certainly was, there were hundreds in notes, and as a self-employed person working with the elderly, this position of trust we’ll discuss in another blog post.’
‘No money today, I’ll be back tomorrow’
‘No bother, I’m not going anywhere’
The ‘Who are You?’ Day
A cold, dark gloomy Friday came, and time was running away with me, but I had a key and I’d promised the gent I’d be back. So late afternoon, at dusk, I arrived at a house in darkness. I could see the television on, so to save him being disturbed twice, I went into the open garage, programmed the key, and got him mobile again. All that was left, was to give him the key, but when I knocked on the door, there was no reply.
I peered through the glass, deciding whether to come back the next day, but then saw him laid in the darkness and feared the worse. I went in to try and help him, and I’ll spare the details, but this poor gent had fallen and died. Ten minutes earlier I was programming my last car of the week, now an ambulance screamed to a halt and suddenly I was part of his last days.
Back in the room
So now were back in the living room and the paramedic is Sherlock Holmes, piecing together clues, searching for address books, bills, recent mail. All the while asking, ok, so who are you? He’s calling people asking for information, tracking down who he’s allowed to give the news to. All this time, he should be out saving lives, but instead he’s playing detective. I’m struck by how wrong this seems, how difficult it’s all proving.
Then the police arrive and they’re asking me now, who are you? what are you doing here? Finally, once my statements made, I’m free to go. Then the paramedics stand down, they’ve finally found a relative, but it hasn’t been easy.
So, this has ran around in my head for a while, and I realised how much easier it would’ve been if there’d been a ‘break glass in emergency’ book or card. It just needed a few details, who he was, who to call and that would have made everything so simple.
The ’Bad News Book’
So, I’ve created the ’Bad News Book’, a simple, helpful document that tells everyone what to do in a disaster. How to break the bad news, who to tell. Then how life carries on in the short term, and what happens to the business afterwards. This week is my first stage and it’s breaking the bad news.
The van now has a sticker on the glovebox. Imagine a crash, a heart attack, a stroke, and a paramedic finding myself or Simon. How much easier would it be, if they could open the glovebox and have all those questions answered? So, this is our weeks project. The sticker tells them to open the glovebox and Who are you? ID card including a photo, name, address, who to call. This way the paramedic or police doesn’t dance around on the phone. No more not saying the wrong thing to the wrong people.
It’s my first step, and already I feel better that if something should happen, some of the guesswork is taken care of. It’s the beginning of the Bad News Book that deals with the worst possible outcome, so that when its finished I can get on with the rest of my days without worry.
Next week, who’s going to sort everything out. Well talk about that.